“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
As each of my children begin a new endeavor, whether it be academic or sports related I always tell them to have fun and to do their best. In sports it was and still is important to me that they enjoy what they’re doing, or I believe they should stop and try something different. Academically, things may not always be fun, but striving to their best is always emphasized. This is not a license to prematurely quit something that they simply don’t like any longer, but hopefully a way to encourage a mindset of learning to love what they’re doing while a choice still remains for them. As we get older and take on more responsibility the options that we once had become very limited and we can easily find ourselves literally stuck, doing something that we don’t love or even like for the remainder of our natural lives, whether professionally or relationally. When in those positions, simply walking away is not usually the best solution, for with that comes a string of other issues that can also follow us.
A Gallup (click on link) study back in 2013, showed that out of 150,000 full and part-time workers surveyed, 70% of them either hated their jobs or were completely disengaged. Can you imagine living your life this way? Perhaps you are one of these individuals and endure the pain of this life today, and it seems like there is no way out. This situation can indeed get harder to change as we get older, and become more hopeless, I believe there are things we can do to better control our peace of mind and outlook during this time. Below are a few a few ideas.
1. Take your discontent seriously and be committed to a change – This is more than just about venting to your colleagues about your intolerable manager or the misguided duties that he/she consistently subjects you to, that fail to fit your job description, but it’s coming to a place where you’re ready to take control of what happens next in your career. For me, this looks like an individual realizing that they’re current situation at work will not change in the near future, but equally understanding they have the power to do something about it. That something will include possibly talking to a career coach and coming to terms to what it is you actually want to do and discovering that there are attainable ways to get there. Maybe it will encompass you revisiting your long-term goals or writing them down for the first time and developing a plan on what steps to take to finally make them a possibility. Main point here is when we’re serious, obstacles become milestones versus places of hindrances.
The mission becomes bigger than the battle.
2. Paint a new picture on why you do what you do – Often times when we become discontent in the workplace the mental picture of performing our jobs can become so unbearable that we would rather stay in the bed rather than face the agony of doing the job again. It can become quite depressing. Again, when we understand that the situation will not change in the near future, we must take control of our circumstances and create a new outlook on what we do and why. Is there a better way to fully understand the significance of your job, no matter how mundane it may seem? Is there a way to regain any excitement or vigor regarding your role or daily duties? This speaks primarily to the not so simple task of taking what you already know and understand and re-boxing it. Not in a way that seems false, but in a way that attempts to recreate what you can to restore a sense of purpose and pride in your work.
3. Be purposeful about your energy and focus – Does your job or manager zap your energy daily? Quit allowing that to happen! Spend your time focusing on what is promising about your goals and path forward versus the immediate discontent that you face. The saying, “We are what we eat” will surely get the best of you if all your time is consumed by a job you hate and a manager you can’t stand. Redirect your focus to something better and peaceful. Realize that this moment is temporary and is a big part of why you must continue to look past it. Your greater future must remain in your mind’s eye, otherwise you’ll lose sight, and once again become distracted by what’s immediate, versus what lies ahead.
We never truly quite appreciate how simple lessons we’re taught as children can have an impact on us as adults. Today, I truly appreciate how kids play and what they discover while they’re playing. It’s passionate, fun and establishes life-long lessons that will be played out at some point in their future. As a parent I want my children to be the best at whatever they decide to become. My question is do we stand back and recognize what our children are becoming through our own filters, or do we watch their lives unfold and take note of the various affinities appearing right before our eyes? Are we teaching them to absolutely love what they do while there is still time to do it? Or are we setting them up to live lives of disappointment, regret and conditions that limit their best gifts and talents? Many of us are doing the latter unconsciously. We’re quickly saying to our children, “Do your best!”, but we’re not necessarily seeing, hearing or understanding that the road we have them on is our road and not their own. How can one do their best when they don’t even believe in what they’re doing?
Now of course it is absolutely imperative that we expose our kids to new things and many things, but at some point we have to recognize what should stick and what should fall away and as they get older we should listen to them more. My oldest has the desire to become a doctor and as a junior in high school she has set herself up very well to accomplish that. Along with her study habits and ambition I am certain that she will achieve her goal, but about a year ago I had sat her down and told her basically what I’m saying today. I told her that as much as her mom and I want her to become a doctor, “I want to make it clear that if you get to a point where this dream really was not about you, but about me or her mom, that she should pursue something else.” Of course I prefer to know this prior to paying for medical school, but the key is I want her to pursue her own passions. Nothing more, nothing less. The results of this will be her best.
I believe it is most easy to perform our best work when love that work. No one will have to get us out of bed or remind us to complete a task, study or practice, because that thing will become a part of what we live for. A part of our drive for life will be attached to “that thing”. There are so many people that we could reflect on in history and immediately be thankful and humbled by their contribution to their community and the world. They defied the odds that faced them by doing their very best in that moment. A moment that we can still be impacted by today. For some, decades later.
So remember, as your watching a young person act out how they intend to change the world for the better, encourage them, believe in them and always tell them to do their best. The world may one depend on it.